On The Edge has worked with over 350,000 individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and countries in the last 35 years.
In our decades of experience, we’ve discovered that both leaders and employees alike often find it difficult to articulate exactly why certain traits and behaviors work well together. Conversely, they are at a lass as to why other traits and behaviors cause significant dysfunction on their team.
To address this common issue, On The Edge introduces the Social Styles methodology to most of our team and leadership clients. This framework increases understanding between people and enables productive communication.
The Social Styles methodology establishes a baseline understanding of how different people on a team relate to each other and work together. This methodology informs a newfound awareness and appreciation for different work and leadership styles, strengthening relationships and unifying groups of all sizes and statuses. Consequently, teams that learn and integrate the Social Styles begin working much more effectively and cohesively in no time at all.
On The Edge has identified four core work and leadership styles that outline common ways of showing up in the workplace and life in general. The Social Styles provide distinction and clarity with leaders and teams. However, they work just as well for anyone who is looking to become more connected to the people around them.
To help aid in understanding the basics of the four Social Styles, here are some overview descriptions of each:
Often perceived as deliberate, constrained, and logical, the Analytical is a listener who follows procedures. They carefully weigh all alternatives and remain steadfast in purpose. The Analytical style comes off as disciplined, independent, and unaggressive.
Often perceived as business-like, results-oriented, and taking initiative, the Driver is straightforward, quick to act, and decisive. They like to challenge new ideas and respond quickly. The Driver seldom hesitates to correct, to amend, to modify, or to confront others.
Often perceived as aggressive, inspiring, and emotional. The Expressive feels comfortable taking the social initiative and engaging in friendly conversation before moving on to the task at hand. The Expressive is easily excitable and ready to share insights and dreams.
Often perceived as quiet, unassuming, and supportive, the Amiable is a warm, friendly listener who is easy to get along with. They appreciate taking time to build relationships and seek support and feedback from others before they make decisions. The Amiable enjoys personal contact and shared responsibility.
The vast majority of people are a combination of two of the above styles — one primary style and one secondary style. In our experience, most people think and act through the lens of their primary style. However, many people do find themselves toggling back and forth between these two styles fairly often in day-to-day life. Exactly how these primary and secondary styles show up in different situations is what makes us each unique, and therein lies the benefit of examining the Social Styles in more depth.
The key benefit of integrating the Social Styles methodology is that it equips teams and leaders with the knowledge, tools, and skills to work extraordinarily well with all Social Styles (read: all people), even ones that are significantly different. This methodology demonstrates that it is possible to collaborate effectively with anybody if there is an understanding and appreciation of the different styles.
Studying and integrating the Social Styles methodology within one’s team or organization can also be transformational in understanding and improving social dynamics. Without some framework to understand relational dynamics, most people assume that others are inexplicably different, challenging to work with, and fundamentally hard to connect with or relate to. Oftentimes people want to work well with others, but they have no idea how to do so.
Once everyone understands the four different styles and identifies them on their team, blending the strengths, talents, and abilities of the different styles becomes much easier and much more productive. As such, one of the added benefits of working with the Social Styles is that it creates space for more positive and empathetic communication between different people on a team.
The reality is that a unique distribution of the Social Styles makes up most teams. To begin understanding the importance of these styles to team dynamics is to accept this reality. What’s more, the four Social Styles appear to be significantly different on face value. Although the styles are notably different in a few key ways, the reality is that everyone embodies some characteristics of each style. However, the primary style and secondary style signal one’s dominant or default way of showing up in their personal and professional life.
In one instance, a team member with a dominant and overbearing style (Driver) can very quickly alienate a member of the team that is more introverted or less assertive (Amiable). Even though the Driver’s default style is only trying to move quickly to achieve immediate results, it is unconsciously stirring up the less confrontational styles on the team. As a result, the momentum of the team overall is actually slowed down.
In another instance, one team member is pitching a new project idea but doesn’t have a concrete plan or the data to support it (Expressive). Consequently, this person frustrates another member of their team that likes to have things planned out and a clear picture of the issue before proceeding with a project (Analytical). This erodes trust on both sides and ultimately leads to division between these team members.
As you see above, unconscious differences in everyday behavior can cause challenges and dysfunction within a team dynamic. Therefore, gaining awareness of the different Social Styles in a group and appreciating the unique ways people approach and solve problems serves to unify people with diverse styles. From the vantage point of mutual understanding, teams can combine their strengths to come up with the best solution and create a path forward, together.
It is important to raise awareness of the inherent conflicts that can occur between styles due to significant differences in how each style operates and sees the world. Unaddressed differences will become subtle fissures in team and leadership relationships. These fissures will cause short to long term damage in any organization if not addressed properly.
What’s more, clashes between styles can harm group cohesiveness and productivity without people ever realizing why or how these unconscious conflicts arose. In lack of an explanation, people often resort to behaviors like finger-pointing and summing it up to “differences in personality.”
This can lead people to two lines of thinking: 1) “Am I the only sane person around here?”, or even more damaging, 2) “I’m right. They’re wrong.” These perspectives challenge many teams, leaders, and organizations. Luckily, they can best be addressed by learning and integrating the Social Styles.
The most common challenge we have observed when working with leaders and teams is an unconscious conflict between work and leadership styles in a team environment. This all-too-common conflict presents an obstacle to high-performing teamwork and effective collaboration because it distracts people from keeping focused on the real task at hand.
Oftentimes team members have a blind spot around how to work and communicate with people who are different from them on the team because working with opposing styles is difficult. This makes sense. Most people find it quite effortless to work with people who are just like them. However, it is far more likely that someone will be part of a team that is made up of people who are fairly (or significantly) different from them.
What’s more, many people find it difficult to work with others when they don’t understand another person's approach to a situation. When someone is really different from us (or simply sees things differently than we do), we rarely say to ourselves “that’s a very different and interesting perspective/POV”. Often we say “I’m right and they’re wrong” or “my way of seeing things is the only right way.” This perspective can be the beginning of adversarial behavior and challenging in a team dynamic.
In reality, everyone can think of someone they work with that is not only very different from them, but they sometimes wonder if the other person is from another planet altogether. The challenge is how to bridge the divide and help foster the unique talents and strengths possessed by everyone on a team, making everyone feel included and appreciated.
The Social Styles present an opportunity to tap into the best of everyone on a team. To do this, it is critical to first work towards understanding the different social styles and how to work most effectively with them. In finding the middle or common ground between the different styles and mutual interests, there can be a breakthrough in effective communication and a transformation in cohesive collaboration.
One of the key aspects of the Social Styles methodology is that every style has a set of distinct strengths and liabilities. In building awareness of the strengths and liabilities of each style, the opportunity becomes how to best maximize the positive impacts of each team member’s strengths while minimizing the potential negative impacts of each team member’s liabilities.
In our experience, high-performing teams focus on how to bring out and combine the unique strengths, talents, and abilities on the team. When the focus is on maximizing strengths, the overall team dynamic encourages each team member to show up as their best self by fully utilizing their untapped talents. This enhances productivity and harmony and unlocks the potential in everyone on the team.
By contrast, low-performing teams tend to focus on everyone’s liabilities and weaknesses, setting the stage for an overall sense of “what’s wrong with me?” or “what’s wrong with you?”. These lines of questioning quickly lead to people becoming defensive and disengaged. The Social Styles methodology can impact a team by upending this dysfunctional approach and creating a culture where liabilities are part of the conversation, rather than being hidden or covered up.
One of the most amazing things that happens in just four to eight hours of exposure to the Social Styles methodology is that people go from a state of frustration or misunderstanding to a state of appreciation and awareness.
This is because learning to combine all the strengths and talents on a team is a much more successful (and sustainable) strategy than continuing to point fingers at all of the liabilities or weaknesses of other styles and personalities.
Before engaging in this work, we’ve partnered with some teams who would race to the bottom when it came to punching the lowest, throwing the most people under the bus, or playing the blame game when it came to making clear who has the worst liabilities or weaknesses. After engaging in this work, these same teams transformed their cultures to be ones where all team members took accountability for their actions, leading to elevated performance, increased retention, and higher employee satisfaction.
We see it clearly now: if you focus on liabilities, you will get more and more liabilities. If you focus on strengths, you will get more and more strengths. This is the key takeaway and impact that the Social Styles can have on creating a more positive team dynamic and culture. In a culture where strengths are maximized, the team is able to accomplish much more than each team member would be able to alone.
Imagine for a moment an experience where you are on a team of people with very different backgrounds, abilities, motivations, and agendas. Because your team spent time learning the Social Styles methodology and integrating it into their culture, the group performs incredibly well together even though you are all seemingly different on the surface. In this way, it would seem that a certain type of “synergy” has come over the team. That is, everybody on the team is operating and contributing at a much higher level of performance than they ever would as an individual.
This vision of synergy is what we aim to recreate when introducing the Social Styles methodology to teams and leaders in a structured process for learning and integrating these styles.
On The Edge begins the process of facilitating a Social Styles workshop by engaging in a discovery conversation with leaders and key members of a team to gain an understanding of current opportunities and challenges within the team. Particularly, our staff aims to identify if there are any negative or dysfunctional group dynamics occurring on the team. This helps us understand what specific facilitation will be beneficial in elevating the team to the next level of cohesiveness and synergy by building more trusting, deeper relationships through the Social Styles framework.
Following discovery, On The Edge designs a program to accomplish the unique objectives laid out in collaboration with the leaders and key members of the team while addressing the relational challenges and opportunities present. This program design takes into account any information gathered from qualitative interviews as well as any quantitative data from anonymous surveys.
Upon completion of the discovery and design phases, the next step is to bring the team together in person to participate in the Social Styles workshop.
To initiate the Social Styles workshop, our facilitators introduce the methodology and the descriptions of the four core styles. Upon introduction to these style descriptions, participants begin to quickly realize how many of the challenges they are experiencing are driven by differences in Social Styles rather than by personality issues or simply “not wanting to work together”. Alternatively, when things do go well, it is because there is some level of understanding or appreciating the differences in the Social Styles.
Once participants are familiar with the Social Styles methodology and how it influences team dynamics, they are then given an assessment to identify their own unique style combination. This succinct assessment guides the participant through a series of behavioral questions that are grounded in key themes from the Social Styles framework. Depending on the sum of the final tally of answers that participants choose per style, they are assigned a primary social style and a secondary social style.
One of the unique aspects of the Social Styles program is how quick and simple it is for people to discover their unique social styles combination. This assessment takes only 15 minutes to complete and is completed during the course of the workshop, providing immediate results to be worked with throughout the rest of the course.
Almost everyone who has taken this assessment commented on how straightforward, easy and fun it was to discover their style using On The Edge’s Social Style assessment. Even though the process for discovering one’s styles is simple, the impacts can be profound.
With an overview of the Social Styles and their assigned social style combination in hand, participants begin to deep-dive into learning more about their specific primary and secondary styles.
The first step in relating better with other people is first recognizing one’s own needs, values, and ways of doing things (i.e. what works for them and what doesn’t). Without understanding themselves and how they like to be related to or treated, it’s hard for members of the team to understand other people that are different from them with different styles.
Getting clear about this distinction is foundational to the Social Styles work. When each individual understands their own needs, they are more clear and comfortable in standing up for themselves and letting people know when their behaviors are conflicting with that person’s needs and values. The challenge then becomes how to best work with other diverse styles who have their own set of needs, values, and ways of doing things.
Learning about the other styles is an equally important step in this process. As the team starts to learn in more detail about other styles, the lightbulb goes off. “Wow, this is why so many of my relationships in my personal and professional life are the way they are!” In doing this work, members of the team realize that there are big differences and that most people - without awareness of these styles - don’t have a way to understand each other. Once individuals learn about the needs, preferences, and boundaries of other styles, they come to realize that they will work much better together when they bring the strengths out in everybody as opposed to focusing on the differences and liabilities of each style.
Because of how distinctly different each of the styles are, it becomes quickly understood that they will have to work hard to understand each other and bring out each others’ best. Put another way, the team will need to actively seek common ground and meet in the middle of the different style’s perspectives or points of view. From this point we look to put these ideas into practice, answering the question: “How do we relate with and work with all types of people on our team that brings out the best in each of them?”
Once everyone in the program better understands the needs, values, and ways of being that influence working together effectively, On The Edge then guides them through a series of challenging problem solving activities designed to specifically illuminate key aspects of the Social Styles.
These problem solving activities demonstrate that when the team brings out the best (strengths) in everybody, they are much more successful. Conversely, they make clear that when the team focuses on differences and liabilities, things quickly fall apart.
Because these simulated activities are designed to emulate the challenges of real-life scenarios, some team members end up falling into their usual stress or backup behaviors that are triggered by these situations. While harmful, these backup and stress behaviors are effective in driving home many lessons of the Social Styles methodology.
When everything is going well and the team is successful, it’s easy to be a happy, high-functioning team. In this successful state, many people find they are able to work quite effortlessly together no matter the styles. One of the biggest challenges, however, is how teams behave when things begin going poorly and they are put under intense stress from pressures that are often outside of their control.
Take, for example, a sports team that is losing a game by a wide margin. In this situation, it is not uncommon to see people on the sidelines snapping at each other or playing a different game altogether: the blame game. In general, they are showing up as their worst selves. When you see these back-up and stress behaviors present, you can all but guarantee that that team will lose because they are caught up in unproductive and unworkable behaviors.
In our experience, the distinction between a mediocre team and a really great team is how they deal with unexpected challenges, setbacks, and conflicts. We all experience stress. When we’re stressed, we’re never anywhere near the best version of ourselves. Instead, when our backs are against the wall, that’s usually when we’ll exhibit the most damaging and dysfunctional behaviors. Understanding and overcoming these backup behaviors is a huge opportunity in working with the Social Styles.
The Social Styles methodology and putting it into practice helps to raise awareness of the stress and backup behaviors that can easily take a team down or make them a shell of what they could be. The reality is that each style has very specific ways they react to stress and conflict. Engaging in challenging hands-on activities is a way to actively identify and address the backup and stress behaviors of the styles as they occur.
After experiencing these simulations of real-life business challenges, the team is led through a debrief by our facilitators. From here, the group is able to clearly see how they need to work together and what ways they need to enable each other to be more successful and productive. During this debrief of the workshop, the team also clearly identifies the areas that they aren’t working well together and are bringing out the worst in each other.
Together, both these positive and constructive reflections from the team serve as a foundation for creating a path forward. This path forward often takes shape in the form of a co-created team covenant, re-focusing the team on a shared mission and vision for future success.
The experience that participants have of the power in working together during the Social Styles workshop - as well as the damage done by some of the dysfunctional stress or backup behaviors - informs the co-creation of team covenant.
The team covenant articulates how the team will work together moving forward. Oftentimes these covenants envision more positive ways of working based on a newfound understanding of the Social Styles. Further, the covenant also addresses how the team will avoid or mitigate the dysfunctional and bad behaviors that hindered their success and hurt their culture in the first place.
The real impact of co-creating this powerful team covenant is that when the team returns to their everyday working environment, there is a significant change to norms of communication, collaboration, and overall cohesion. This results in a whole different sense in the office and the greater organizational culture. The team starts to bring out the best in everyone around them, even the people that weren’t there for the On The Edge workshop. In this way, the team covenant can have a ripple effect, positively impacting and uplifting all people at an organization.
One way of thinking about this is that teams and leaders who engage in the Social Styles workshop learn to maximize everyone's strengths, finding a way to use all of the talents on the team. Prior to this experience, most people will hold back their talents and abilities, doing the bare minimum just to get by and not create any more conflict.
We have found that people hold back because they don’t feel encouraged or safe addressing or trying to change the previously negative team dynamics. Now, with everybody on the same page and having a path to positively contribute to the team, all team members are emboldened to show up as their full self.
As you can imagine, the bottom-line business impacts, as well as the retention of employees in the organization, dramatically increase upon completion of the Social Styles workshop. Even though the team's talent and abilities were the same before and after the workshop, the difference is that before many of those strengths were unnoticed, not being fully tapped or utilized. Consequently, people weren’t “going for it” because they didn’t want to get caught in the middle of the dysfunction.
What’s consistently amazing to us is that people who complete this program realize that the underlying talents and abilities of their team members were always there but not expressed. In creating an environment where the team can come together and bring out the best in everyone, teams experience a whole different level of performance as individuals and as a collective.
There is a new level of synergy that is created when teams engage in the Social Styles work. This synergy can unlock powerful transformations and breakthroughs for any team or leader by enabling individuals to discover and appreciate the magnificence and greatness of the people on their team.
Because of the major difference felt after the Social Styles workshop, teams and leaders will often ask On The Edge if we can provide follow-up processes to engage in ongoing coaching and implementation around this methodology. This follow-up work allows teams and leaders to keep progressing down the new road they have set out on together.
On The Edge provides several follow-up processes and structures along with ongoing practical consulting and coaching. This supports the team in integrating and applying the key learnings from the Social Styles workshop.
Based on the expectations laid out in the team covenant, this document is utilized to review the overall team and individual team member performance of actions and behaviors on a regular basis to discover opportunities for further integration and alignment around the key Social Styles learnings.
The team covenant creates accountability in moving towards a more positive and engaging culture. A culture in which all team members are treated well by identifying values and actions that would actively contribute to this new high-performing work environment. Further, the covenant is foundational to another follow-up process: the follow-up assessment.
The second process is a follow-up assessment. This assessment gathers written feedback about the impact of the Social Styles workshop. To capture this, the assessment acknowledges the growth and success that had come out of the course. Effective follow-up and coaching is essential to assure that the team and its leaders continue to grow and improve in the right direction long after the workshop has concluded.
The teams that are the most successful at implementing the Social Styles long term are the ones who have repeated exposure to this methodology supported by ongoing practice and coaching. On The Edge offers an Advanced Social Styles Course to individuals and leaders looking to learn more in-depth applications of this methodology. Additionally, the Advanced Course provides a forum to continue practicing these styles in a supportive, challenging environment. Consequently, the Advanced Course fully integrates this methodology into participants' personal and professional relationships.
We’ve found that the organizations that see the greatest impact of this methodology long-term are the ones who actively work to integrate the Social Styles in the fabric of their team, leadership, and organizational culture. These principles, if applied and practiced, make a critical long-term difference in how teams relate and collaborate.